The SPA runs an annual weekend course where members can observe and learn together. It combines a number of talks with the chance, weather permitting, to look at the stars.
Preston Montford 2023 – The Solar System from your back garden
This took place from Friday 10 to Sunday 12 November 2023. Course speakers were Ian Morison, Gary Palmer and Robin Scagell.
The 2024 course will take place over the weekend of 22–24 November. Booking will open in summer 2024.
Virtual Preston Montford 2021
There was no weekend course in 2020 due to the pandemic, but in 2021 it was decided to hold a virtual one-day event live, exclusively for SPA members, and you can now catch up with the day’s lectures on this page.
About the courses
Preston Montford is owned by the Field Studies Council, who run courses at a number of centres around the country, but this course is run by the SPA and not the FSC, who provide the accommodation and facilities. There are no age restrictions on attendees, but while we will keep a particular eye on young persons attending by themselves, parents are advised that we cannot take responsibility for supervising them.
Take a look at Vicky Video’s vlog of the 2018 Preston Montford course: https://www.youtube.com/embed/XzDRDzYCzB4
Preston Montford is about five miles from Shrewsbury, in open countryside. This gives skies which are much darker than in most suburbs, though of course they are affected to a certain extent by the lights of Shrewsbury. However, they are good enough to show us a wide range of astronomical objects, and if it is clear there are enough objects on view to keep people busy for hours.
The autumn skies contain a huge range of objects. The summer Milky Way is still visible in the west, with objects such as the Dumbbell Nebula, M27, and the Veil Nebula in Cygnus (visible using filters). During the evening the winter constellations rise, such as Taurus and the famous Pleiades cluster, Orion and its nebula, and Gemini. And many attendees at Preston Montford get their first glimpse of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, which is high in the evening sky.
Attendees are encouraged to bring telescopes, and several different instruments will be provided. There is plenty of room to set up telescopes, either immediately outside the classroom where there is shelter from the elements, in the car park where there is hardstanding, or in the extensive grounds. The outside lights of the Centre are switched off for our benefit, though there is usually a moth trap in the grounds which is left on.